"The new batch of characters came in real bland."
"Just save it for the new Twilight book."
*Jane Austen walks in* "I'll have the usual."
"That'll buy you an old man, and because I like you, I'll throw in the sea."
"This is gonna be so boring."
"All those poor highschoolers."
I'm a big fan of Studio C. Betcha couldn't guess that one. 😉 One of my favorite sketches (okay, yes, I have a lot of favorites), is Teddy's Story Joint. Why? Because I'm a writer.
Teddy's Story Joint is all about writers coming to buy their plots and characters. You've got Jane Austen, Earnest Hemmingway, George Lucas (with J.K. Rowling copying his order), jabs at Stephanie Meyer and Michael Bay, senators... It's really pretty funny, and it also makes me think. There really do seem to only be so many plots, so many basic storylines. Especially when you write genre fiction, stories tend to follow a formula. They follow an expected storyline.
For instance, Jane Austen: "Girl likes a guy, doesn't look like she's going to get the guy, but then she does...with a witty social critique on the side."
Not too different from most romances.
Or portal fantasy stories: Person from our world goes through a portal to a world with problems, they're prophesied to save the country, which they do, then they go home.
It's cliche. It usually makes it all the same. Like sports movies and animal movies. It can get annoying. (Hallmark movies...)
But the thing is, cliches are cliches because they work. People keep using these basic plots because they work. They make sense. People know what to expect.
But yet, even when you use that same basic plot, the story doesn't have to be the same as all the others. In fact, it shouldn't be. You should put your own unique twist on it. Your portal fantasy can still follow the same basic pattern of person goes to another world, saves it, and comes home and yet be completely different from Narnia. You can use that girl likes a guy, doesn't look like she's going to get the guy, but then she does plot line and it can be just as different from Pride and Prejudice as The Lake House is.
The trappings are different. The characters are different. The writing style is different.
Yes, in many cases, you can strip away the details of a story and get it down to a basic storyline that's the same as every other story in the genre. And some lesser quality stories don't become very unique once you flesh them out...but the great ones do. The great ones have so many layers to them that they become unique. They're so full that you don't realize if that basic plot has been used a hundred times already.
And sometimes it'll be so unique and amazing a plot that it'll become a cliche itself.